Dr. Thomas Dick
Veterinarian and Naturalist
Johnston, Pennsylvania

Dr. Thomas Dick is an award winner in the Land Stewardship and Development category, both for his dedication to the restoration of wetlands on his property and for his role in making the wetlands restoration program in Pennsylvania one of the most successful in the nation.

In 1987, Dr. Dick purchased a run-down 170-acre farm in south central Pennsylvania for the sole purpose of restoring, managing, and creating wildlife habitat. Prior to his purchase, much of the farmland had been drained by a system of open ditches and tile lines, and a small stream had been relocated. Dr. Dick envisioned returning it to a diverse system of marshes, wet meadows, shrub and forested wetlands, and some upland areas. In the fall of 1990, Dr. Dick contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Pennsylvania Field Office to inquire about a new wetlands restoration program entitled Partners for Wildlife. Partners is a FWS program that offers technical assistance and cost-sharing to private landowners interested in restoring wetlands on their property. As a result, in the summer of 1991, two dikes were constructed on the property, restoring about 20 acres of wetlands.

By early 1992, Dr. Dick began to see the benefits of his investment. In February, 17 species of migratory waterfowl, including tundra swans, pintails, green and white winged teals, and hooded and red breasted mergansers, found the newly restored wetlands. In March, hundreds of shorebirds stopped in the marshes during migration. In fact, the local Audubon Society recorded and documented a 56 percent increase in species after the restoration. Of the 20 species listed by the FWS as nongame birds of management concern in the Northeast, 11 were seen on the property and four used the area for nesting after this phase of the restoration.

Dr. Dick, his friends, neighbors, and volunteers from various organizations planted between 25,000 and 35,000 trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants on the property in 1992. Also, three additional dikes were constructed along with several small potholes restoring an additional 60 acres of wetlands on the property. Dr. Dick’s run-down farm now supports a system of 80 acres of wetlands and 90 acres of upland habitat. During the second year after the start of restoration, the Audubon Society reported a 100 percent increase in birds from the pre-restoration level. Over 1,000 people visit Dr. Dick’s wetlands each year. They include school classes, conservation clubs, government agencies, and individuals.

Dr. Dick has encouraged these groups to use the wetlands for educational and research purposes. The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown uses the wetlands as an outdoor classroom and has several ongoing research efforts aimed at documenting the recolonization of the area by invertebrates. While the habitat that Dr. Dick has restored on his property is significant, his greatest contribution to wetland resources is his enthusiastic promotion of wetlands restoration. Dr. Dick’s infectious enthusiasm has sparked a wave of wetland restoration projects by nearby property owners. His efforts have also resulted in dozens of newspaper and magazine articles and numerous television reports. Dr. Dick now devotes most of his free time to the conservation of wetlands and wildlife resources and encourages others to do so as well.

In addition to his wetlands activities, Dr. Dick is a past president of the American Littoral Society, where he founded the Coral Reef Conservation Society dedicated to the protection of coral reefs in the United States. He is a trustee of theNortheast Marine Environment Institute, founder of the Allegheny Plateau Chapter of the NationalAudubon Society, and a board member of the Chincoteague Natural History Association, whichis a supporting organization of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Dr. Dick is also an Adjunct Associate Professor of Natural History at the University of Pittsburgh and still finds time topractice veterinary medicine.

— Charles Kulp, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service